Obituary: Thomas Mabbott, 88

Tom Mabbott. Picture: Contributed
Tom Mabbott. Picture: Contributed
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A HORTICULTURALIST with an exciting role in the world of pests has died at the age of 88.

The eldest of three brothers, Thomas Mabbott was born in Grangemouth to parents Mary, a teacher and Thomas, an independently-minded member of the Brethren who worked on the railways and at Grangemouth docks.

Educated in Grangemouth, his interest in nature and country life was sparked as a nine-year-old through BBC radio programmes.

He subsequently went to Glasgow University to study agriculture but his BSc course was interrupted when, due to an administrative error, his deferment was cancelled and he was called up for National Service.

He joined the RAF in 1945 but the war was over by the time he actually started his service as an orderly room clerk. On being demobbed in 1948 he returned to his studies, this time at the West of Scotland Agricultural College in Glasgow. He went on to study an honours course in agricultural zoology and completed his thesis at the request of Grangemouth Town Council, which paid him £50 to investigate control measures for biting flies.

After graduating in 1952 he worked briefly as a labourer in a sawmill before being awarded a PhD scholarship to Glasgow University to study new ways of controlling the cabbage white butterfly. However, within a month he was offered a scientific officer post with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland at Newbattle.

Two years later he won a Kellog Foundation scholarship to study in the United States.

Returning home, he cemented his reputation as a plant parasitic nematologist and represented Scotland at many international conferences and symposia.

He retired in 1987 and became involved in the local community of South Queensferry where he and wife Jessie had lived since 1956. He was active in the Rotary and Probus clubs, supported the parish church and Parent Teacher Associations, helped with the Scouts and campaigned for a new high school.

He was also involved in founding and chairing the Queensferry & District Horticultural Society and opened his own garden to the public under Scotland’s Gardens Scheme (SGS). In 1994 he joined the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, becoming secretary and treasurer. He later developed the Scottish Gardeners Forum and received the MBE in 2003 for services to Scottish horticulture.

A gifted speaker, he gave scores of talks for the SGS, frequently recited Burns poems and gave the Immortal Memory at the Zoological Society in Edinburgh. He adored choral music and gave many solo and quartet performances, but said his greatest musical experience of all was as part of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.

Predeceased by wife Jessie, Mr Mabbott is survived by sons Findlay and Alastair, grandson Michael and his brother Gordon.